Melancholic, mysterious, magnetic. Oleg Bagmutskiys storytelling takes you right there in between art and honesty.
Q: Rural seems to be a strong part of your identity, not only as we imply from being a part of your childhood, but also as we feel is strongly reflected through much of your work. What made you want to move to Russias largest city Moscow, and how did you experience it?
"I’m not entirely sure that rural describes me. I was born in small city in Ukraine, but grew up and spent most of my life in the biggest city of Siberia. I’m a big city person. I’m used to the noise and big crowds. The other thing is whether I like it or not, in my photography, most likely, I’m a sociopath; I shoot like I’m introverted to the core of my being. I moved to Moscow in 2013. I knew that I wouldn’t find the opportunity to grow in Novosibirsk and by my own nature, I’m an adventurer. It was something like this: I did a shoot, bought my tickets to Moscow, didn’t tell anyone about anything, and just moved. This somewhat describes the entire style of my life. I don’t consult with anyone and never seek anyone’s approval. I just do it, because I’m sure that it will be the right decision. The move wasn’t easy. In the beginning, I lived in a hostel with 16 other guys. At that time, I didn’t understand that I could make money with photography. I was taking any jobs; photo reports in night clubs, event photography. As it often happens, now when I look back in the past, it seems silly to me, but back then I didn’t have any other choice. But I’m glad that I’ve had those experiences as I’ve used every opportunity to get better."
Q: What does the Russian industry have to offer as opposed to Europe? Since you work a lot in Europe, would you consider moving here at some point or are you trying to push Russian industry further?
"I believe that Russia is still in a state of catching up, not only in photography but also in music and movies. It’s almost like some sort of bad parody of the West. There is an explanation for that. I think that the era of the USSR hampered the development of society. I believe that the situation will change with time. Take for example Ukraine and their music industry- it’s one step above the Russian music scene. In terms of photography - Russia has a lot of good photographers, but being just good isn't enough to be sought after by the West, you need unique style and that’s where it becomes complicated. You open Facebook and browse through images of all these different photographers. It looks like they have all been taken by the same person. How am I suppose to differentiate all these photos? Where are the unexpected meanings? Why is everybody so narrow-minded and why don't they try to see the world somehow differently? That I can not understand."
"In my current plans, there is no desire to move anywhere from Russia. I’ve been travelling and working outside of Russia for the last 2 years. I have explored different countries and cities. To be honest, I just don’t need to think about moving somewhere else right now. I can go to any place in the world and work there. I don’t have any goals to push Russian industry into the West, although I appreciate when I receive compliments from Western artists. I don’t think that the presence of artistic taste or lack of it somehow represents where the person comes from, but it certainly plays an important role in the artist's vision."
Q: Are you still living in Russia, or have you moved? If you've relocated, we would love to hear more about your transition from Russia to where you are based at the current, also why you chose to leave?
"My mom lives in Moscow :) I haven’t moved anywhere and I’m not planning to in the near future. But I travel most of the time. In 2017 I spent 9 months outside of Russia. There isn’t any hidden meaning behind it. I love Russia. Can I call myself a true patriot? Not sure. But the only things that motivate and move me are the desire to think outside the box and the spirit of an adventurer. No one is paying me for the travels themselves. But I’ve visited hundreds of new cities and I continue to discovering more. Change of place is important part for creativity."
Q: Who inspires you and why? Any particular photographer, their signature styles or other artists, creatives, or people in other genres?
"I can name a couple of my favourite photographers: Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh, and Tim Walker. The last one, is probably, the closest to my vision with his style. Although I don’t exactly love the quality of Testino’s work that much; and the aesthetic view of framing the shot in Lindbergh's work. I can’t say that I get inspired by one of them specifically, but their work definitely motivates me. A lot of things can inspire you. Cinematography, music, paintings... I can’t recall if anything has impressed me lately, but what I really want to do right now is to put an aquarium on somebody’s head, add a couple of fishes in there and shoot that."
Q: You use a spontaneous approach, why and how does this define your work?
"I think that this approach is close to many photographers. When someone asks me “do you know what we are going to shoot?”- it puts me in great confusion, I mean c’mon! It’s art, it’s about creating! I can’t plan it ahead of time. It’s all very individual. You have to see the place, the person. You have to feel it all. Only then you can create some sort of picture. But it all comes to work only if you’re definitely ready to create and call into existence. If you have style. If you are an artisan, then, of course, everything is simpler and dull. How does this reflect on my work? It’s difficult to describe. Sometimes they tell me something like: "the people you shoot are not really models, but you shot them as if they were models. Everything looks so organic, like it's a movie". And that’s what I’m talking about, I am all about this. I love to catch the moment, I won’t immerse the person into an artificial world. I want them to be in their natural environment. But I need drama in their eyes."
Q: We see a fashion meets art/portraiture approach in your work, is there a particular direction you prefer, or do you not prefer being to defined?
"That’s exactly how I describe myself, that I’m something between fashion and art. I can’t say, that I prefer one more than another. Tastes change. Now I shoot with one style, maybe next year I’ll be doing it completely differently.
Q: Are there any specific magazines you regularly work with today?
"No :) It seems to me that my style doesn’t quite fit for most of the magazines - but I’m working on it. My vision isn’t “for everyone, It’s very peculiar, I think, that’s why sometimes I do shoots that are somewhat "simpler" and "more accessible to the masses", and send them to the magazines and then the magazine can decide whether they want to publish them. But there is only one truth. I always told myself to stand my ground and my point of view. Only that helped me to achieve everything I have right now."
Q: Is there anything, in particular, you miss or long for, any dear memory from back in the days that has defined you?
"At the age of 5 I wanted to open an agency that finds and rescues lost pets. Now I’m 28, and I understand that I’m that animal that wants to be found and tamed."
Q: Who would you most like to work with?
"I would definitely want to assist during one of Testino’s or Walker’s sets."
All images by Oleg Bagmutskiy, check out more of his work here!